2010 Lent Daily Devotional Composed by the members and friends of St. Andrew-Wesley United Church of Canada LENT: A season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. In addition to reflecting on the season of Lent, the theme of ―Earth‖ was introduced as a possible lens for understanding what this Lent could mean for our lives today. When some of the contributors to this year‘s booklet gathered to hear this year‘s theme of ―Earth,‖ the group brought forth this word association: clean water go lightly on the path don't trample the meadow wilderness we are earth too: we are soil, fire, water global dust to dust creation smell of the soil love of Earth the bounty seen in the soil with crops beautiful places where we meet God How did God make this! How did this happen?! Where will God walk with you this Lent? What will ―Earth‖ mean for you? Blessings on the Journey. The word Lent comes from an old English word meaning “spring.” Taken literally, the word means “lengthen,” referring to this time of year when the daylight hours become longer. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, not counting the six Sundays. This season of our church year is a time of preparation, reflection, growth and change. ―Lent‖ Lent is a time to take the time to let the power of our faith story take hold of us, a time to let the events get up and walk around in us, a time to intensify our living unto Christ, a time to hover over the thoughts of our hearts, a time to place our feet in the streets of Jerusalem or to walk along the sea and listen to his word, a time to touch his robes and feel the healing—surge through us, a time to ponder and a time to wonder . . . Lent is a time to allow a fresh new taste of God. From Kneeling in Jerusalem by Ann Weems, Westminster / John Knox Press 1992 Why a Lenten Household Resource? It is common practice for people to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. It is just as significant to mark the days of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday and leading to the most celebrated Holy Day, Easter Sunday. A Lenten Household Resource provides us with the opportunity to pause daily or weekly to remember and reflect upon the meaning of Lent. It provides an opportunity for us individually or within a family to engage our faith in a meaningful, spirit-filled way. A Lenten ritual at home will hopefully provide folks with a time to recognize the presence of the Holy and to be attentive to God‘s spirit. What supplies will you need? This resource, a Bible, matches, 6 tea lights or purple candles (purple being the colour of Lent), words to ―Like a Rock‖ (see below). ―Like a Rock‖ (More Voices #92) by Linnea Good Like a Rock, Like a Rock God is under our feet. Like the starry night sky God is over our head. Like the sun on the horizon God is ever before. Like the river runs to ocean, our home is in God ever more. License ID: C18553 Resources used in preparing this Resource: Before and After Easter: Activities and Ideas from Lent to Pentecost by Debbie Trafton O‘Neal, Illustrated by David LaRochelle, 1992, Ausburg Fortress; More Voices An Activity for the First Week of Lent Candle Lighting: Light 1 of the 6 candles in your Lenten worship centre. Giving Up and Giving . . . The 40 days of Lent (not counting Sundays) stretch from Ash Wednesday to Easter morning. Many languages derive the name for this season from the Latin word for ―forty‖ – Quadraginta. In Italian, this word is Quaresima; in Spanish it is Cuaresma; in French the word is Careme; and in Irish it is Corghas. For many, the 40 days of Lent are a time of fasting and prayer. Lent, for many, means a few weeks of "giving up" something -- coffee, chocolate, pop, watching episodes of "American Idol!" What we often miss is that the reason for "giving up" something as a Lenten practice is not to show the strength of our will. Rather it is to make space for something thing else. If we give up television, then we should use that extra time to do something positive with our family, friends, church, or community. If we give up coffee, we should take all that money we would've spent at Starbucks or Tim Hortons and give it to a worthwhile cause. Talk together about organizations that you would like to support, it may be an organization that cares for people, it might be one that cares for the earth . . . . Spend some time as a family talking about how you all would like to spend time together, what would you like to do together over the 40 days and spend some time talking about where you might offer your gifts of money. Quick Quiz: The number 40 also figures into a number of important Bible stories. Can you remember how long the Israelites wandered in the wilderness? Or how long Noah, his family and the animals floated in the ark? How many days was Jesus in the wilderness? Closing Prayer: God we give you thanks for this day. We pray for one another and for our world..(Name those people, places and situations that need prayer). May we accept the blessing of your love and share that love wherever we go. Amen Sing: ―Like a Rock‖ by Linnea Good License ID: C18553 An Activity for the Second Week of Lent Candle Lighting: Light 2 of the 6 candles in your worship centre. Read: Luke 19:1-10 In this passage we read the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector. The story of Zacchaeus climbing a tree in order to see Jesus was a favorite of mine as a child. Possibly because as children we are always needing a lift to be able to see what is happening, be it at a parade or the zoo or even at church. Children, as well as adults, often feel insignificant. Perhaps Zacchaeus felt insignificant too. But Jesus changed all that. He saw a man in the tee and called for him to come down. Even more, he went to the man‘s house to say for the day! Jesus‘ loving act changed Zacchaeus‘ life. Our loving acts can change the lives of others. We can make them feel significant. A Family Giving Tree Many families are aware of their ―family tree‖ – listing their ancestors and present relatives. What about creating a Giving tree along these lines? Draw a tree shape on a large piece of paper, adding the names of current family members to the branches. As a family, talk about the kinds of gifts you give to one another. Notice how many of these gifts are the ways that God‘s love is shared. Cut leaves for your tree from coloured paper if you have it (or colour the leaves with crayons) and let each family member write one item on each leaf that suggests something another person could do for them. Then place the leaves in a box or basket near the tree. During the week, let family members choose a leaf and complete the giving act. They can then tape the leaf to the tree branch of the appropriate person. Closing Prayer: God we give you thanks for this day. We pray for one another and for our world. (Name those people, places and situations that need prayer). May we accept the blessing of your love and share that love wherever we go. Amen Sing: ―Like a Rock‖ by Linnea Good License ID: C18553 An Activity for the Third Week of Lent Candle Lighting: Light 3 of the 6 candles in your worship centre. Read: Psalm 141:2 May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. More than 500 years ago, the artist Albrecht Durer was born in Nuremburg, Germany. Although he is well-known for his woodcuts, engravings and paintings, Albrecht Durer is also remembered for his strong faith. It is said that, as a struggling young man, Durer lacked money for art instruction. A friend made a deal with him: the friend would work to pay for Durer‘s classes and then in turn, Durer would do the same for his friend. But the friend worked so hard his hands were not able to paint. Some people believe it is this friend‘s hands that Durer used as models for his famous work, ―The Praying Hands.‖ Prayer is one of the ways we nurture our relationship with God. It provides us with a few moments to be still in God‘s presence, to share with God our thanks, our concerns, our struggles, and our joys. To ground our lives in prayer is to ground our lives in God, who is the source of life. Rabbi Marc Gellman and Father Thomas Hartman have identified the basic elements of prayer, each connecting to a type of prayer: Wow - Prayer of Approach Oops - Prayer of Confession (I’m sorry) Thanks – Prayer of Thanksgiving (Thank you for . . . ) Gimme - Prayer of Supplication (I need, I want) Remember – Prayer of Intercession (I remember . . . ) One of the gifts our faith community offers is the ability to hold one another in our prayers. It is a precious gift to hold and to be held in this way. Make a prayer hand by tracing your hand. On each of the fingers, write one of the basic elements of prayer (Wow, Oops, etc.). In the palm of the hand write Amen, which means ―So be it‖ and May it be So.‖ Take time as a family / individual to offer a prayer each day this week as you gather for meals. Closing Prayer: God we give you thanks for this day. We pray for one another and for our world..(Name those people, places and situations that need prayer). May we accept the blessing of your love and share that love wherever we go. Amen Sing: ―Like a Rock‖ by Linnea Good License ID: C18553 An Activity for the Fourth Week of Lent Candle Lighting: Light 4 of the 6 candles in your worship centre. According to pretzel maker Snyder‘s of Hanover, a young monk in the early 600s in Italy was preparing a special Lenten bread of water, flour and salt. To remind his brother monks that Lent was a time of prayer, he rolled the bread dough in strips and then shaped each strip in the form of crossed arms, mimicking the then popular prayer position of folding one‘s arms over each other on the chest. The bread was then baked as a soft bread, just like the big soft pretzels one can find today. Because these breads were shaped into the form of crossed arms, they were called bracellae, the Latin word for "little arms." From this word, the Germans derived the word bretzel which has since mutated to the familiar word pretzel. Another possibility for the origins of the word pretzel is that the young monk gave these breads to children as a reward when they could recite their prayers. The Latin word pretiola means "little reward," from which pretzel could also be reasonably derived. Apparently, this simple Lenten food became very popular. Pretzels were enjoyed by all people. They became a symbol of good luck, long life and prosperity. Interestingly, they were also a common food given to the poor and hungry. Not only were pretzels easy to give to someone in need, but also they were both a substantial food to satisfy the hunger and a spiritual reminder of God knowing a person‘s needs and answering our prayers. Make your own Pretzels 1 tablespoon of yeast ¼ cup of warm water 1 teaspoon of honey 1 1/3 cup of flour 1 teaspoon of salt 1 egg Coarse salt Mix yeast, water and honey in a bowl. Add flour and salt. Knead dough until smooth. Roll dough into ropes and shape into pretzels. Brush dough with a beaten egg, then sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 425 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until brown. Closing Prayer: God we give you thanks for this day. We pray for one another and for our world...(Name those people, places and situations that need prayer). May we accept the blessing of your love and share that love wherever we go. Amen Sing: ―Like a Rock‖ by Linnea Good License ID: C18553 An Activity for the Fifth Week of Lent Candle Lighting: Light 5 of the 6 candles in your worship centre. Read: Luke 10:38-42 We can learn a great lesson from the story of Jesus‘ visit with Martha and Martha. Martha bustled about preparing for the visit, while Mary waited eagerly to hear the words of Jesus had to teach them. And when he arrived, she sat listening to Jesus. Martha on the other hand, complained to Jesus that Mary wasn‘t helping. ―Martha, Martha,‖ Jesus answered, ―you are worried and upset about many things, but the only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Lent is a good time to slow down and reflect on what has priority in our lives. Are we like Martha, worried and upset, bustling around trying to do everything and resenting others for not pitching in? Perhaps we need to let go of some of those things that distract us from what is really important. Take Jesus‘ words to heart this week. Slow down and listen to God‘s Word. What comes First? One way to help your family to focus on those things that are most important is by taking a family priority inventory. Gather all family members together over a big bowl of popcorn and look closely at your calendar. List all the week‘s upcoming events on a piece of paper and talk about what needs to happen. Talk as a group about what is most important. Decide as a group what activities might be skipped or postponed in order to have some family time. Think about ways how one another can help each other out to make family time happen. Another option this week might be going for a walk as a family and talking about and noticing God‘s incredible creation, you might think about doing a sensory walk . . . inviting members of your family to stop and listen to creation (what do you hear?), stop and look (what do you see?), stop and breathe deep (what do you smell?), stop and gently touch the ground, a tree, a rock, the sand, and even stop and tasting (ice cream is always a delicious creation !) Closing Prayer: God we give you thanks for this day. We pray for one another and for our world... (Name those people, places and situations that need prayer). May we accept the blessing of your love and share that love wherever we go. Amen Sing: ―Like a Rock‖ by Linnea Good License ID: C18553 An Activity for the Sixth Week of Lent Candle Lighting: Light all 6 of the candles in your worship centre. An old Lenten legend explains how the robin got its red breast. On the first Good Friday, all was somber and still. Even birds had stopped singing. Suddenly one lone robin flew to see why everything was so still. As she neared a hill with three crosses, the robin saw that the man on the centre of the cross wore a crown of thorns. One of the thorns had pierced the man‘s head and drops of blood were running down his forehead. Feeling sad for the man, the robin swooped down and plucked out the thorn. As she did, her breast feathers brushed against the man‘s blood and were stained bright red. Ever since, robins have had red breast as reminders of the kindness shown by this bird to Jesus on the cross. Birds are spoken of in many places in the bible, and it is good for us to remember to care for all of God‘s creatures. Here is one way and your family could care for the birds around your neighbourhood. Find some pinecones, some string, a jar of peanut butter (or lard if allergies are an issue) and some birdseed. Tie the string around the pinecone and then coat the pinecone in peanut butter or the lard (it is an ooey gooey mess – but it is fun!) Then take the pinecone and roll it through the birdseed. Then find a tree to hang it from and watch the birds enjoy! Another option this week: is to plant an indoor bulb garden. Visit a local garden centre to buy bulbs. Fill shallow bowls or trays with a layer of dirt mixed with gravel. Follow planting instructions. Place the trays in a sunny window and keep the soil moist until the bulbs sprout and flower. Closing Prayer: God we give you thanks for this day. We pray for one another and for our world. (Name those people, places & situations that need prayer). May we accept the blessing of your love and share that love wherever we go. Amen Sing: ―Like a Rock‖ by Linnea Good License ID: C18553 Ash Wednesday, February 17 Genesis 1:1-2, 31, 3:19b By: Mark Boyter There is a Zen koan that asks ―what is your original face before you were born?‖ An imponderable ponderable. Genesis tells me it was formless and empty, but not alone; the Spirit of God hung over it. I was being held, watched, cared for; like my parents hovering over my crib admiring in wonderment, in love, in wordless ecstasy. And yet, for all that care, there I was, alone on my back, crying with colic, wrestling with the air above my hands, grasping at the faces I could see but not touch. Faces that were the world to me. Faces that had no names. I was growing into me, or into the me that I was then. Imagine: at the end of my sixth day, I had been on this earth, on this ground, on this physical plane, only 144 hours; but that was 143 times longer than I had been on this earth at the end of my first hour. 143 times longer. It boggles. And I think that I can‘t say 144 times longer than when I was born, because that was a zero, and 144 times longer than zero is ... zero, isn‘t it? So how do I count? But there I was at 6 days old, a whole world unto myself with nothing but future ahead of me. Hopes. Possibilities. Loves. Successes. Fears. Did I know that then? When did I come to know that? Interesting. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I came from the earth, I will return to the earth. From that formless, empty watched-over, loved, warm earth. From the soil. An earth that was good. Good. There are so many ways to say ―good,‖ but I imagine ―good‖ as though I were holding my parent‘s hand, looking in their eyes, and saying ―that was good‖ and knowing that it was good for all the reasons that we spoke of, for all the reasons left unspoken. We were formless and empty, watched over and loved, coddled. I can feel the warmth in that formlessness. I can feel the gentleness. I was never alone, even when I felt lonely. My original face before I was born was love, and it was good. Good. May I feel this time of Lent, this time of reflection, this time of love. May the relationships that surround me and mold me grow and sustain me, and may I remember to say ―thank you.‖ Thursday, February 18 In response to Psalm 51 By: Zoë Campbell We have been aware of our infringements upon the earth for many years, yet have fooled ourselves into believing that it is necessary and possible to live beyond the means that God has provided for us. We live in a fast paced society where instant gratification has become the norm. Trampling over members of God‘s community in order to get one step ahead of our neighbour has caused us to lose sight of the fact that we are all one in His eyes. In our haste we are blind to the wonders of all of God‘s creation, including ourselves. We lose sight of our purpose, leaving it behind in the trash along side the coffee cups that held energy to keep us alert in this rat race we call life. What are we really missing out on in this race? While running to work preoccupied with matters of business we cheat ourselves of the opportunity to share this grace filled experience of life with all of God‘s creatures. Lent is an opportunity for us to slow down. Give up the race. I challenge each one of us to give up rushing for the Lenten season this year. Slow down and smell the flowers. Take time to appreciate the whiff of spring arousing your lungs as you pause to wonder at the buds slowly emerging on the trees that line the streets you walk upon to work every day. Each one of us holds God‘s presence inside…the water we drink is the same life giving water that feeds the plants which provide us with air to breath. God, through his forgiveness and love provides every one of us the opportunity to step back into His wonderous community, the circle of Life. In the words of the poet Hafiz What excitement will renew your body When we all begin to see That His heart resides in Everything? Dear God, provide us with the confidence to leap back into your circle of life, reviving our spirit with the life giving community in which we reside. Friday, February 19 Joel: 2:1-2, 12-17 By: Shirley Etter Prophets, both ancient and modern have tried to tell us that some of the choices we are making are going to have disastrous results. Joel says: blow trumpets to get everyone's attention; gather ALL the people; remind them of the amazing abundance of God's steadfast love and constant desire to see the whole of creation ―satisfied‖. Prophets like Joel and Jesus call us to return to the Lord with our whole hearts. Today, how would we do that? By paying attention to the always-old but ever-new signposts that stand especially at crossroads along the Way? Recover a new reverence for life! Be open to wonder in all your encounters with the life-force that shaped and energizes and nourishes and sustains life! Appreciate the interconnectedness and inter-dependence of all parts of the 'web' of life? Note that there are many paths to God! You risk losing everything if you do not include ALL (self, others, creation) in circles of care! Form line here for injections of gratitude and generosity! There will be no end to changes and improvements ahead! The Day of Shalom is just ahead as you continue to make 'good' choices! Hang in there! I will be with you, always! May we pay attention to the signposts, and choose the way together with God towards that alternative day when all shall be well. God give us a new heart, and a new hope, and a new strength to walk this way. Saturday, February 20 Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 By: Rev. Tom Miles Acting doesn't just happen on stage or in movies. It's something we learn early in life. Mother says 'Company coming this afternoon. I want you children to be on your best behaviour.' There are muted groans. Then, in our best clothing, faces washed and hair combed, we are presented to the arriving guests with polite 'Hellos' and smiling faces. Inwardly, there was little joy. We played the role which we were assigned. Later in life, we realized others liked clean, neat, cheerful people with their hair combed. It made a good impression. Sometimes it was genuine. Sometimes fake. The Pharisees were an important male group in Israel. They were religiously devout, faithful to a fault and widely admired by their community. Their strict adherence to Israel's laws of faith could be seen in the practices they followed which others ignored. They objected to Jesus because he did not follow their practices. Jesus freely mixed with people who were not Pharisees. Jesus ate in their homes and invited them to follow him. Jesus did not disrespect the intent of Israel's laws. He objected to the fact that the purpose of God's Law had been hijacked. The goal was to know God and God's love for his human family. The Pharisees believed they should avoid, as much as possible, contact with anyone who did not follow their ways. Such people were 'unclean' in God's sight. To associate with them was to become 'contaminated ' by their disbelief. The one true body of believers in Israel were the Pharisees. And this became a source of great pride. Prayers were to be said at specific times. Some Pharisees 'happened' to be in public places at noon where they repeated the prayers. Jesus felt it was not a private devotion but a public exhibition to enhance their reputation. Help the needy but do it privately. God knows what you do quietly and alone for it is a sign of the presence of the God's Spirit in your heart. Faith cannot be an act or a source of pride. It flows from the heart. O God, be with me. Guide me to find joy in your love. Teach me how to share your love with others. Amen. Sunday, February 21 Luke 13: 6-9 By: Kathy Murphy The parable of the barren fig tree required several readings as I thought about the season of Lent, the thematic focus of the earth, and the current reality of our busy lives. I reflected on the meaning of the man (God) who planted a fig tree (the Jews) in his vineyard (the world) and when he came looking for fruit he found none. The act of planting is intentional with an expectation that something will happen. The site of the tree planting is chosen so that it will bear fruit. For three years (the time of Jesus‘ ministry) the tree did not bear any fruit. Christ‘s teachings did not appear to be changing the people‘s attitudes as they produced nothing of benefit to others. By taking up space and sucking nutrition from the earth, the barren tree was of no use. It caused harm by preventing the ground from bearing fruit it otherwise would. The plea by the gardener to let the tree alone for one more year is a plea for a second chance, to be given a season of grace to become fruitful. The giving of a second chance to change is such a positive step and implies growth to me. While the days become longer and the new growth appears on the trees and flowers, what a great time to look to the possibilities of a new spiritual commitment and living in a new relationship. Loving God, now is the time for us to be fruitful and to live for you with passion. Empower us to live with holiness, urgency and a sense of joyous expectation. Monday, February 22 Romans 8:22-30 By Meaghan Grant I‘m sure you know the feeling well. It‘s 6:30am. The alarm clock buzzes. A new day enthusiastically beckons. You, unenthusiastically, roll over hitting the snooze button. ―Just five more minutes,‖ you groan. We‘ve all wished for those five extra minutes. But have you ever wished for a giant snooze button for life in general? When the new day is too difficult to face? One push and life is on hold. I have. I was there last Lent. I find myself there again this Lent. Last March, I spent two weeks in hospital. It was one of the worst experiences of my life, yet one of the best. Life had become overwhelming; the reality of pain and sadness too much to bear. So I hit that giant snooze button. I thought that by shutting the world out, pulling the covers over my head, I could escape what was bringing me down. Boy was I wrong. During those weeks, I was forced to confront my pain. I couldn‘t eat. I isolated myself from friends. I slept all day. As much as I needed God I could not find the words to pray. All I could do was lie in bed hoping that God somehow knew what I was feeling. God heard me. Something incredible happened in that hospital wilderness where I felt I had nothing left in this world, I focused my whole being on God. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, ―the Spirit helps us in our weakness‖. I never felt the Spirit more strongly than I did then. In the midst of my brokenness, God heard my sighs too deep for words; the prayers of my heart too painful to utter aloud. So here I am again in the wilderness of Lent. As much as I feel like hiding under the covers, I know I don‘t want to. I want to make the most of these forty days and forty nights. I want to experience the fullness of Lent – the beauty in the sadness, the hope in waiting, the Spirit on this journey through the wilderness. Tuesday, February 23 Deuteronomy 26:1-11 By Wingfield Rehmus When the Israelites first entered the Promised Land after leaving Egypt, they were commanded to present to God the first fruits of their labor. ―Take some of the first fruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in the basket.‖ Giving was sign of thankfulness for all that God had done for them. I wonder what it would mean to give the first fruits in my life? Would it mean choosing my favorite outfit to donate to the women‘s shelter rather than passing on the sweater that no longer quite fits? Would it mean planning charitable donations first and then budgeting how to spend what remains rather than looking at what remains after I‘ve paid my bills to see what I can afford to give? Scott once worked with a man named Jim Ellis who‘d pledged to give 1 day a week for volunteer work in honour of his brother who died in WWII. Through this man‘s efforts over 50 years, his home of Seattle was transformed. Among other things, he made it a greener city, cleaned up Lake Washington, and started a non-profit to conserve the beautiful landscape near his home. With that gift of his first fruits, he was able to have a significant impact on the community in which he lived. It is amazing to think of what can grow when we are prepared to give our very best. Dear Lord, It is out of great thankfulness for this earth and everything in it that we strive to give our best back. We hope that through our sacrifice greater things may blossom. Wednesday, February 24 Acts 4:32-37 By: Heather McConnachie The Believers Share Their Possessions How do we learn the art of being compassionate? Not surprisingly, the people who are best at being compassionate to others are usually people who are good at being compassionate to themselves. As a believer in Christ, I have the responsibility to care for the needs of others: my acts of love reveal that Jesus resides in my heart, and giving to those in need may help me to tell others about Him. God gives us all we need, so let‘s give to others in their need. On this day I declare, with the Almighty strength of God's power, that I deserve abundance and the financial means to be comfortable. I will joyfully use that abundance as a celebration of the Law of Harmony on Earth: the more of it I share with those who truly need, the more of it will come back to me, multiplied by God's Grace and Thanks. Amen. Thursday, February 25 Matthew 6: 19-24 By: Gordon Harding A mountain river follows a course carved over centuries. There is no deviating from its pathway. At Lent we take stock of how we travel along our pathway to Christ, a pathway clearly illuminated if we but look and listen to the Spirit. This Bible reading presents three lessons helpful in guiding us along that pathway. In the first, we learn that if we live in pursuit of material goods, we focus our hearts likewise. To store up treasure in heaven however, don‘t focus on things that rust and can be stolen, but on giving others respect, being fair and honourable in dealings with one another, loving one another as Christ taught and focusing our hearts on the people of the world, not the things of the world. The second teaches that if we focus on dark things, our lives will be full of darkness and ―how great will be the darkness if the light in our eye is darkness.‖ Light gained from a purposeful life, one full of honour and above reproach is a life leading to 'heavenly light'. The third recounts that no man can be devoted to two masters: God and wealth. This concept might be viewed as a continuum; actions moving toward wealth lead you away from God, while actions toward improving humankind and serving others lead you in the other direction and toward God. Heavenly Father: This Lent, help us reflect on how we serve the Earth and its people. Teach us to respect our planet through energy conservation and recycling. Foster in us respect for others, distant and next door, and guide us to trade fairly in all commodities. Help those whose living derives from drilling, mining and exploiting treasures from the earth to find new ways to prevent the exhaustion, defacing or defiling of it for current and future generations. Help us also to recognize and give thanks for how we are blessed by your abundant resources. Guide us to share our wealth with others on the earth, and encourage us to follow your path to the fullness of light and life. Amen. Friday, February 26 Luke 4:1-13 By: Wilma Laninga What is this wilderness, this desert journey we can choose to travel during Lent? Is it setting aside busyness, searching goals and wants, or simply asking, ―Who do I choose to serve and what does God require of me?‖ Will we experience God‘s grace, while journeying into the dark hidden places of our personal desert landscape? Perhaps the desire to enter this time of solitude, searching, and prayer has no formal outline but only accepts God‘s promises: I will be with you. I will lead you. Luke does not hesitate to state, that when the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, the devil was also present to offer temptations. As the Spirit leads us on our desert journey we also encounter temptations in our desire to heal our broken relationship with God. Quoting scripture Jesus guides and asks: Can you live only with material goals? Who do you want to serve? Do you willingly accept God‘s wisdom and will in your life? The desolation and aloneness of the wilderness allows us to reach out for God‘s grace freely given each time we desire to heal our brokenness and renew our relationship. Jesus‘ experiences teach and edify our journey. The journey begins to enrich and we now see the desert in its natural realm connecting to a created space of beauty and wonder. We have explored the rocky crevices, learned to expose the dark places, struggled with the danger, and now we can appreciate the contrasting beauty found in shadow and light as it accompanies us on our path into a far-reaching horizon. Our Lenten journey prepares us for the darkness of the Good Friday experience and, as we face our personal shadows, we recognize the gift of forgiveness that God has provided. With the brokenness healed, our lives have been renewed. Rejoicing in the light of Easter that radiates God‘s love, we have become by grace what God is by nature. Come O Fount of every blessing; tune my heart to sing your grace. Let your grace bind my wandering heart to You. Amen Saturday, February 27 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 By: Frank Godwin, Saturna Island Lent, the lingering days, bright, deep red crowning the alder tops, birds swelling, some already seeping leaves, the higher sun, sometimes even warm enough to be out with jackets open, earthier smells, remembered stirrings, lost songs. Signs of what's fading: Winter, the great withdrawal within, the withdrawal inside, the great dormancy, dwindling harvest stores, hope there'll be enough, cutting back. Signs of what's taking shape: Spring, the great re-awakening, the re- enlivening, the great resurgence, points of green breaking though damp soil, trust there'll be more, anticipation, hunger acknowledged. The upward, outward thrust of life re-asserting itself toward the glory of its own fullness. The promise that sustains us. The light that lightens all people and the glory of the everyone-of- one who struggles with it all. It comes again. It comes because it loves. 1 Sunday, February 28 Matthew 13: 31-32 By: Darrin McCloskey Whenever I read one of Christ‘s parables I am always reminded of what a great teacher he is. In two simple lines of verse he has described the kingdom of heaven in a manner that is both simple and profound. And every time I come upon the parable of the mustard seed, I am no less amazed. For some reason I am always reminded of William Blake‘s famous opening line in ‗Auguries of Innocence‘: ―To see a World in a Grain of sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.‖ This time, however, I am suddenly reminded that Blake lived some 1700 years after Christ. What makes Christ‘s teachings relevant today is that he uses words that are tangible - words that stretch across the millennia. In many of his parables he talks of birds, salt, water, wine, bread, and, in this case, a most miniscule object like a mustard seed - all tangible words. I think he chose these earthy, tangible words because it made it easy for his disciples to grasp his meaning, as it does for us today. In the mustard seed I am reminded of the Hasidic Jewish idea that each object has the essence of the divine; it is our responsibility to raise every object around us and recognize its divine spark within. So think of this idea: the idea of the mustard seed, the divine spark being ‗raised‘ the next time you see a child kneeling on the floor amidst a wide array of colourful Crayolas and a blank piece of paper, and that child innocently creating that meandering blue river that seems to flow right off the page onto your linoleum floor, and the puffy green tree ballooning skyward, and that egg-yolk sun smack dab in the centre of it all. And then for some reason you feel drawn to fasten this ‗spark‘ to the refrigerator door for all to see. Yes, raising the divine spark is all so simple, and yet so divine - as simple and divine as a child‘s drawing. As simple and divine as a mustard seed. And now, I can‘t help but wonder what the drawing on Christ‘s refrigerator door would look like today; and I am reminded of the words from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds: ―Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.‖ Dear God, grant me the grace to bear witness to your divine spark each and every day, whether it be a moon over the mountains, a sun over the sea, or even in a blade of grass peeking between the cracks in a sidewalk. Monday, March 1 Psalm 27 By: Ruth Faber This psalm begins with a powerful statement of faith, safety, and reassurance. These words become even more potent in light of what follows: the stark images of assault, life and death struggle. Where does this strong trust come from? Surprisingly it does not seem to come from any outside intervention but rather from going within. The psalmist yearns to live in God‘s presence. This seems to imply deep experiencing as well as active seeking. Going within provides shelter, safety to rise above, lifting up one‘s head to see beyond threat and limitation. Liberated from fear the psalmist ―makes melody to the Lord‖, engaging fully and joyously with life. Seeking and engaging with God this way is described as a matter of ―the heart‖, our deepest center. However, this journey is not an easy one in the face of life‘s serious challenges. Even though the psalmist‘s faith seems strong, there is fear and a sense of personal failings - and yet - there is hope and trust. My own faith journey has led me to explore practices like centring prayer and mindfulness meditation. For me this psalm connects profoundly with this experience. Practising mindfulness teaches me to be fully present in the moment, present to God, instead of being distracted by loud and fearful voices in my head which judge and evaluate continuously. Being present this way helps me to ―behold the beauty of the Lord‖ by sensing my deep connection to all creation and to engage fully with this Earth and all that dwells within it in a spirit of compassion and love. Establishing and staying committed to this discipline is not easy and every day I struggle with distraction and the never-ending judgmental commentary in my head. Like the psalmist I call out: Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level pass. Let me be patient with myself as I learn to encounter you. Help me to be present and give my heart courage to rise above my personal pre-occupations and grow in love and compassion. AMEN Tuesday, March 2 Philippians 3:17-4:1 By: Ryan Fraser-Morissey When I first read the passage, I was again touched by how the Spirit works within my life. I had written the poem below a couple of days before Kathryn welcomed me into this project, and had been thinking about how so many have so much, but do not give thanks for their abundance, or deny from whom these gifts are given. The tragedy in Haiti, gives us all a chance to pause, and give praise for our safety and security. The Earth is a finite resource to be nurtured and cared for, just as our spiritual garden needs to be tended to on a daily basis. As the scripture says, ―the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under His control‖. We need to clear away all that causes us to stumble, and should we fall, reach for His hand to help us stand on the path made for us. The first light of dawn rockets across the sky Illuminating your creation Sweeping darkness into light How do some claim You do not exist? The wind brushes across the pine And softly caresses the waters Echoing the heartbeat of the Earth in their movement How do some claim You are not present? A bird takes flight across a curtain of blue And seeds push their pale green arms through the soil Greeting the spring day with a smile How do some claim You do not care? People greet people And soul touches soul Voices joined in praise and worship How do some deny that You love them? Heavenly Father, Help us to clear away all that keeps us from you and give us voice to claim you, just as you have chosen us to be your people. Thank you for the abundance of gifts you provide to your children, and keep us wrapped in your love, and blessed with peace and joy. Amen Wednesday, March 3 Psalm 72 By: Lorraine Graves Psalm 72 tells me that across the thousands of years, people have prayed for good leadership; they have looked to their leaders to shape the national ethos, to lead the way in taking care of the poor, the hungry, the oppressed and the ill. In this time of Lent 2010, we too call upon God to help us to help our leaders show compassion to those with the least in our country and our world. May they reflect on the needs of those with less. ―May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy‖ What speaks to me most in Psalm 72 are the phrases asking God to instil in our leader a compassion for those in need, the homeless, the disenfranchised among us, be they in the downtown East side, our family, or in foreign lands. ―For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.‖ What sings out to me in this psalm is the call for compassion in our leader, compassion towards the earth and towards all people on it whether rich or poor, powerful or weak. ―May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.‖ Even though composed thousands of years ago, the need for compassion and care for our fellow humans endures. ―In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.‖ God make me a compassionate leader and wise follower. Help me to guide our leaders towards the ways of kindness for others and the earth. May I make informed choices when I vote, choices made with compassion for the poor, the homeless and the ill, wherever they may be. AMEN Thursday, March 4 Luke 16:19-31 From: ―Daily Lent Prayer‖ (www.onlineministries.creighton.edu) Opening Prayer: God of love, bring us back to you. Send your Spirit to make us strong in faith and active in good works. Grant this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Scripture reading: Luke 16:19-31 Intercessions: God has revealed himself in Christ. Let us praise his goodness, and ask him from our hearts: Remember us, Lord, for we are your children. Teach us to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Church, - that it may be more effective for ourselves and for the world as the sacrament of salvation. Lover of mankind, inspire us to work for human progress, - seeking to spread your kingdom in all we do. May our hearts thirst for Christ, - the fountain of living water. Forgive us our sins, - and direct our steps into the ways of justice and sincerity. Closing Prayer: Loving God, I hear your invitation, "Come back to me" and I am filled with such a longing to return to you. Show me the way to return. Lead me this day in good works I do in your name and send your Spirit to guide me and strengthen my faith. I ask only to feel your love in my life today. Friday, March 5 Mark 4: 35-41 By: George Baldwin In one of the great images of the Bible, Jesus is peacefully sleeping in the back of a storm-tossed boat on Galilee when he is awakened by a gaggle of panic-stricken disciples crying out to be saved. He commands the wind to cease; and behold, the waters are calmed. The Teacher then lectures his followers (and us) on the import of what has happened: ‖Why are you afraid?‖, he asks. ―Have you no faith?‖– the point being that trust in God‘s love embodied in Jesus to be effective must be perfect and complete - greater even than that which led the disciples to pack up and follow him in the first place. Total commitment is not yet theirs. During this Lenten time of preparation for Easter, one meaning we can surely take from this is that we are called to the dauntingly difficult task of getting ourselves in shape to receive and act in accord with the life-saving news that Jesus still lives. There is nothing easy about this, or passive, for it is in fact nothing less than a requirement that we individually set out to be changed. This is, to my mind, rock-bottom Christian belief. Without personal transformation, the many good things that our religion has to offer amount to little more than other worthy pursuits that hold our attention for a time and then as often as not fade from view. What otherwise can Jesus‘ mission be if not to have this effect on us? Lent is the time in our calendar explicitly given over to the unending search for what is called the Way – not so much through a preoccupation with Self, though it might seem so, but as an outwardly-directed pursuit of our ultimate purpose as human beings in this world we inhabit, which is, if we can believe the almost universal urging within us, to be one with it in what we do, or at the very least not actively out of accord with it. In religious terms, this is, surely, the beginning in the soul of the redemption May we be granted, during this time of Lent, the insight and will to follow the way of Jesus to what we believe is the closest thing to heaven on earth – the sense of utter fulfilment and harmony, the blessed serenity, that is God’s peace. Saturday, March 6 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 By: Emily Jarrett It is very easy as a Christian to claim to be worshipping God and not idols, to claim that our faith is in Jesus and not in other metaphysical realms, but what is an idol? Anthropologically speaking, an idol is a physical representation that stands in place for a greater idea or god. It is, first and foremost, a physical object. It is something we can unearth at a later date and use to piece back together our ideas of the society that produced it. What are the anthropologists centuries from now going to find of us? What are our idols? First place to check is in our trash bags. What are we throwing out? What is so common and so relied upon that it is expendable or replaceable? Check your day planners or calendars. What do you think you "simply could not live without?" What effect does the reliance we place on these idols, these physical objects, have on our relationship with God? Our idols may not be satanic in origin, but the effect of placing them first, before families and friends, and God affects our relationship with each other and with Him. What is there in our lives, in yours, in mine, in the life of this city, and province and nation that would cause the Lord to be jealous? Dear Lord, I thank you for this time and this opportunity to look back and reflect on my own life. I pray for your guidance, for your help seeing that which I need, and that which I do not. I pray to be able to discern between that which you have provided for me to help me, and that which is hindering my relationship with You by taking Your place in my life and in my heart. And I pray for Your help drawing my eyes and my reliance back to You. Amen. Sunday, March 7 Colossians 1:15-20 By: Rev. Dr. Dale W. Johnson Attuned to the world around him, Walt Whitman reflected: A noiseless patient spider, I mark‘d where on a little promontory it stood isolated, Mark‘d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding, It launch‘d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself. Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them. And you O my soul where you stand, Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space, Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them, Till the bridge you will need be form‘d, till the ductile anchor hold, Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul. A Noiseless Patient Spider, by Walt Whitman (1862): In the letter to the Colossians we read that God reconciles himself to all things in creation through Christ. The spiritual path we are invited to follow is one that invites us to be connected by invisible gossamer threads of reconciliation that ties and unites us with all humanity, all creation, all of the earth. We are called to live in harmony with our neighbours who are near and our neighbours who live at the far reaches of the global village. We are called to live in harmony with the Spirit Bear, the Manatee, the Eagle, the Gazelle, the Orca, and all living creatures. And, we are called to live in sacred harmony with our home, the Earth. Holy One – Help us to hold our neighbours, all the creatures of the earth, and the very world we live in with the love, respect and honour with which you hold each of us. May it be so. Monday, March 8 Matthew 13: 1-23 By: Mark J Anthony Beyond the agricultural image of sowing seeds in earth, for me, the deeper meaning behind this parable, illuminated the act of and requirement for commitment ...... commitment to God, to the message of Christ and to our Earth. In my journey to baptism and beyond I have been trying to learn and understand the shape and structure of the religious bowl I have committed to holding the water of my spirituality. Certain truths are emerging for me. One: that God is everywhere and in everything. To quote Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, ―God is the web, the energy, the space, the light – not captured in them but revealed in that singular and vast net of relationship that animates everything that is.‖ Everyone and everything of this Earth is interconnected and interacting with God, ―…the concept of life with God as a dance …God makes a move, humankind makes a move, and then humankind makes a move based on God‘s move.‖ So, being of this world, I am part of the dance and if I want to dance well, I have a responsibility to be a good partner. Two: that God gave us intellect and free will to make choices in our lives. Even having Faith is a choice. The Advent study book ―The First Christmas‖ illustrates how difficult it is to prove factually or historically Luke or Matthew‘s account of the Christmas story, and yet how in the context of that time people believed these parables. I chose to have Faith, to believe these parables, to surrender my need for facts and accept that they hold spiritual knowledge which helps to sustain me. I, we all, act on Faith, making decisions daily, not knowing the outcome. However, in the face of factual information which affects me and the world I live in, I still have the responsibility to question, doubt, learn and make informed choices. The Dalai Lama comments that ―Peace and the survival of life on earth as we know it are threatened by human activities and lack of commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and natural resources results from ignorance, greed and lack of respect for the earth‘s living things.‖ People‘s reaction to today‘s call for Environmental action and change could be seen to parallel Matthew‘s parable (verses 19-23). Some people don‘t understand and are victims, some understand eagerly but only do lip service and don‘t change if it‘s too inconvenient, others understand but are too caught up in worldly pleasures to change and some understand and try to change by living a life more integrated with the needs of the world. If I believe that God gave me life and that God is this Earth and everyone and everything is interconnected, and that I was given free will and intellect to understand and make informed decisions; then this Lent I have to ask myself what choices and changes will I commit to, in order to help our Earth. I like the fridge magnet quote ―Don‘t make me come down there…. signed God‖. But now, if I think of God already being here in the Earth itself, it changes my perspective about how I live on Earth. ―God, I pray for our Earth … your Earth … that we may take greater care of it and each other‖ Tuesday, March 9 By: Darryl Nixon Wednesday March 10 Psalm 63: 1- 8 By Sue Parker This passage speaks of our connection to God and his part in everything we do. We are nothing without God - ―a dry and weary land where no water is.‖ His ―steadfast love is better than life.‖ God is our help and we should be guided by him in our daily lives and the way we use our world. For many years we have lived a life of plenty with minimal regard for what we are doing to our Earth. Although we should be environmentally friendly, there are more and more new products that make our life easier with little regard to the impact they make on our planet. What is going to happen to our Earth in the next generation, if we continue as we have? We talk a lot about carbon emissions but do not seem to take action. We must do more than just praise God. We must utilize his power to reduce our impact on the Earth so that there is a future for our children and grandchildren as well as the World at large. Heavenly Father. Continue to be an integral part of our lives and guide us to discover and promote ways to preserve our Earth. Help us to be a model for others. Thursday, March 11 Isaiah 24: 5-11 By: Caroline Penhale At first blush, this passage seems bleak. The prophet tells us that the ―earth lies polluted‖ and ―its inhabitants suffer their guilt‖. There is no wine and no joy to be found. Isaiah is warning the people of God‘s coming destruction and judgement. Yet, this scene paves the way for the birth of a new way of being in the world. It can serve as a reminder of our sacred responsibility to take care of the earth and mend the world. Often something old must be destroyed so that space can be made for the new thing that God wants to do in us. I can think of a few examples: The annual ritual of Spring cleaning, sorting and purging in which so many people participate. How do you feel before completing this task? How do you feel after it is complete? In springtime many people pick up on the practice of fasting and embark on cleanse or detox type diet plans. As we eliminate old patterns of eating and drinking, what becomes possible for us in terms of health? What if, instead of the wine running out, we imagine the supply of fossil fuel running out? If our current way of life were forever altered by ―the end of oil‖, what new ways of living might be possible? What might the impact be on our transportation patterns, our communities and our relationships? This process of destruction and rebirth is cyclical and continuous. Seen this way, God can be understood to be destroying the old and doing a new thing all at once in every moment. The bleak and the wonderful can and do exist together. Spirit of God we thank you for your constant presence even as we experience the stress and pain of destruction, change and loss. May we be open to your creative energy working in us so that we may more closely follow the Christ and take seriously our call to care for the Earth and the World. Amen. Friday, March 12 Matthew 6:7-15 By: Erica Clark This scripture relates very well to my most appreciated Lent practice, Simplicity. I see that we humans tend to over-do and over-spend, all in the name of impressing others. I am sure that while God was creating our Planet, He put in minimal thought and resource. He simply wanted us to have a nice place to live and play on – Voila. Try it in your daily goings on. If we follow what the scripture suggests and implement the conciseness of the Model Prayer into daily living - for example, consuming only what we need, being frugal when the opportunity presents itself - our eco footprint lessens. By doing this we give ourselves the gift of denial; learning to appreciate our fortunes. And low stress to boot! Lent also encompasses the thought of conversion. Let's make the small changes regular. They amount to a big change when we all do it, and grow beyond Lent into our being efficient and eco-conscious persons by nature for eternity. My Friend, I realize the wonderful objects and opportunities you present us and as your children, You wouldn’t have it any other way. In return, I do not neglect the blessings You provide. Thank You. AMEN Saturday, March 13, 2010 Isaiah 55:1-9 By: Christa Ovenell Lent can be seen as a season of thirst—thirst for a deepening spiritual understanding—and the compelling invitation embedded in this text is to ―come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.‖ Who could refuse? Who is not thirsty, who among us could live without quenching their thirst? Our shared spiritual tradition veritably flows forth with water images and metaphor, placing water firmly at the centre of sacred rituals, and for this I am grateful. It is because of this centrality that sometimes the simple act of turning on my tap and watching my sink fill with icy clean, pure water can make me feel connected to God and the Holy in quiet, quotidian ways. Sometimes, I reflect on the privilege of my Canadian birth which has provided me with virtually unlimited access to this safe, life-giving resource. And then, sometimes, I am drawn into consideration of my global brothers and sisters who live without this thing that should—in any just world—be a right, not a privilege. And I remember a global debt I owe, a debt of stewardship, of care, and of action. In this beautiful, lapping passage, Isaiah‘s poetry reminds us that God‘s gifts come without cost and are given to all. We are reminded also that the Divine may not be easily understood, for ways of Divinity are not human ways. That is all too true, though we must, as global citizens, try to behave as if divinely inspired: we can give as the Lord taught us, and care for those around us, and share the precious resources we all require. Lord, today I pray for you to provide me with opportunity to see my privilege for what it is, and inspire me. in your mysterious and holy ways, to give to those around me who do not share it. Amen. Sunday, March 14, 2010 Psalm 104 By: Jim & Gwen MacLean Cruickshank What a beautiful psalm this is! It is often read or chanted at vesper services around the world and is seen as a hymn of creation. The poet, thought to be King David, celebrates all God's creation.....animals, plants, mountains, waters, skies, birds, grass, earth, trees, day and night, fishes, and humans. God is light and in God there is no darkness. This psalm praises God and nature. First, when we read it we can't help but feel grateful for all God has given us! It creates a joyful mood and reminds us of how God loves all of nature and in doing so gave us this beautiful earth and nature with all its varied, wonderful creatures. Verses 20 to 27 are a reminder that God made the world for all ...not just for us. However the psalm also leaves us feeling sad. It reminds us that today the world is not the way God created it. Now we are polluting God's precious gift. After reading the psalm, we are left wanting to restore the earth to the beautiful place that God gave us. We feel encouraged to love and cherish our world the way God does. Let us remember especially these words by the psalmist.... "Bless the Lord ,O my soul. O Lord my God , you are very great. You are clothed with honour and majesty , wrapped in light as with a garment. O Lord , how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. " Perhaps the best way we can "Bless the Lord" and "Sing to the Lord" is to do something to make God's world a better place...to restore it to the way it was given to us. We are God's hands and with God's spirit guiding us, we can change the world until it once again resembles the beautiful world described in this lovely psalm . Dear God, Thank you for creating this beautiful world and forgive us for polluting it. Guide us to work together to mend its brokenness and make it the way you intended it to be. Thank you. Amen. Monday, March 15 2nd Corinthians 5:16-21 By: Jen Cunnings In this passage Paul describes his role as an apostle, his is a ―ministry of reconciliation.‖ As a result of his incredible conversion, Paul switched from being a persecutor of Christ to a proclaimer of Christ. He was profoundly and forever transformed. He became a new creation and viewed people differently because of that experience. For each of us our conversion experiences are different, whether they are an amazing awakening, or a gradual deepening, a mountain top experience or a winding journey of wonder. In and through these experiences we too become a new creation when we are ―in Christ‖ (a phrase Paul used a lot in his letter‘s describing a believer‘s spiritual relationship to Christ). But what does it mean to be ambassadors for Christ? When I think of ambassadors I think of high-ranking diplomats, people representing nations, those who are authorized to bring messages and requests and encouragement. I think of Gary Doer who just recently became the new Canadian ambassador to the United States, I think of Stephen Lewis who was our Canadian ambassador to the United Nations. Being an ambassador is an incredible honour. It is an opportunity to represent not just yourself but others. It also comes with great responsibility. As ambassadors of Christ we are called to share the message of Christ: loving our neighbour, seeking justice and walking humbly. We are called to represent Christ in our living: Living in such a way that those who don‘t know God, come to know God because they know us. Generous God, we ask for your guidance and grace as we seek to live your love in the world. Help us to share your message of hope and peace in times of turmoil and calm. May we see the face of Christ in each person we meet, and may each person we meet see the face of Christ in us. Amen. Tuesday, March 16 Matthew 6: 25-33 By: Janet Buchanan In this beautiful passage Jesus is asking us to have faith in God to help us deal with our everyday problems. He uses themes of nature to illustrate how we should not be worrying so much, but putting our trust in God to help us. In our modern fast-paced lives this may seem difficult, but in this season of Lent we could try sharing our problems with God and have the faith that we are heard and help may come. This text also tells me that Jesus saw and loved the beauty of Earth and all its creatures. Now, our planet and the animals, birds and plants that live here are threatened by loss of habitat, pollution and climate change, much of which has been caused by humans. Think about an earth that didn‘t have the birds of the air or flowers in our gardens, or crops in the fields. What a loss that would be. Earth is suffering and we feel sorrowful because of it. The problem is huge and sometimes we feel overwhelmed by it, just as we can be overwhelmed at times by our own personal problems. Lent is a time when we can reflect on these things and ask God to help us find solutions. Dear God, Thank you for this wondrous Earth, the gift of life and the coming renewal of Spring. May we have respect for all life and seek to find ways to heal our Earth where it is hurt. Wednesday, March 17 Romans 8: 31-39 By: Faye Diamond …I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Powerful words then. Powerful words now. The stuff sermons are made from. Words to hold close, to comfort you throughout your life. However, they aren‘t the words that are foremost in my mind. The decade of the seventies held many losses and emotional traumas for my family. No matter the glorious sunshine of brilliant summer days. No matter the bold colours of children‘s artwork surrounding me in my classroom. Many days, weeks, months just seemed grey. In an effort to move from the grey to the sunshine I decided to read an old, best seller by Norman Vincent Peale called The Power of Positive Thinking. The passage that he quoted, the one that I would repeat over and over to myself, the verse that pops more readily into my head is: …If God is for us, who is against us? Paul‘s letter to the Romans encourages forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption. God did not withhold his own Son…from Jew or Gentile. God loves all his creation that much. In this season of Lent, of renewal, we should remember that God is always with us. He is also with every other particle of His creation. I hear the voice of Alexandra Morton exhorting elected officials to protect our wild salmon while each government denies that it‘s their problem. I watch dedicated protesters in flimsy little boats confront the whaling ships of Japan and Norway. I read about huge conglomerates more concerned with the bottom line than ethics. It‘s enough to make God weep. But He is there…in the voices and actions of protesters, in the pictures and words of journalists, and He is with us when we say a little prayer, support a just cause, write a letter, make a donation, or do nothing at all. God is there. And God is always for us. Abba, thank you for your unconditional love, your eternal presence, and your beloved Son. Help us to live our lives according to your will. And help us to forgive others, to reconcile our differences, and to replenish this beautiful planet. Thursday, March 18th Psalm 69:1-18 By: Jim Vanderwal ―I have come into deep waters and the flood sweeps over me.‖ Winter in Vancouver; sometimes it seems like the rain will never stop. In the semi-darkness of day, I walk through rain and puddles, forgetting that somewhere above the dark clouds the sun continues to shine. Creeks in the North Shore mountains becomes torrents of water, mud and debris. I have heard that floods serve important ecological purposes -- the silt deposited during the flood season creates rich soils, the high waters flush away and rejuvenate overgrown river channels. Perhaps this is also true of the flood that sometimes clouds my spirit and mind. ―Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.‖ It can be hard to find answers in the moment. There seems to be more perspective and understanding when looking back on past flood plains, where the waters receded many years ago. I might see lush green grass growing, and flocks of migratory birds passing through. I may see relationships blooming between people I never imagined, supporting each other in love. I can see that God has worked through everything, and used the results of despair for a different purpose than I could have thought possible. God, help me to remember that wherever I am, you are with me. Amen. Friday, March 19 Habakkuk 2:1-4 By: Tim Scorer I am by nature someone who likes to observe what's going on. I think it's my native curiosity. There I am sitting behind the wheel of the Honda at a crosswalk or on the window coffee shop stool relishing the diversity of human life passing before me; or grazing through the morning headlines from the CBC and New York Times on my computer screen, picking up the detail of stories that catch my attention; or tramping along the forest paths on Bowen and noticing the subtle changes in new spring growth since the last walk; or engaging with a grandson and being amazed by the latest specific development in human life as guided by my own offspring. That's observing, and it's good. But watching is different. This word 'watch-post' challenges me to think of watching as being alert to the arrival of something anticipated. It's way more active than casual observing. Watching actually shapes the nature of our observing. Look at Habakkuk; his whole orientation to the way he was looking was shaped by his anticipation of hearing a word from God, perhaps a response to his formal complaint. I get the feeling that he wasn't going anywhere until he clearly heard that word. I really like his determination to watch and wait for the real thing. Do I know what I'm watching for? That feels like one of the tasks for Lent: to get clear about what it is I'm watching for so that I intentionally shape the quality of my observing. Having said that, I also have to say that the word that came to Habakkuk has a lot of appeal to me. Get clear about the vision! It's a circle: if I'm clear about the vision that will entirely inform the way I watch all that's going on around me. My spirit will be right within me. And my action in the world will be Spirit-centred. Immersed in the fullness of Your life, I watch for your presence and your word for me. Come, Holy Spirit, come. Amen. Saturday, March 20 Psalm 26 By: Catherine Atyeo If this Psalm could be expressed in the simplest of terms, it might be something like: Don‘t worry if the world is falling apart all around you, and natural disasters and war abound, God will protect you. The Psalm presents the possibility of cataclysmic changes to the planet, including mountains shaking and trembling and waters roaring and foaming. In the face of these monumental events, the Psalm asks us to believe in a God with supreme and instant powers: ―...he utters his voice, the earth melts.‖ This God can also put a stop to human conflict: ―He makes wars cease to the end of the earth.‖ Perhaps like many individuals who were raised in the United Church, I squirm just a little at the depiction of this kind of interventionist, ―magic wand‖ God – it feels just a little too much like a movie starring Charlton Heston. What makes this Psalm have meaning for me is a phrase repeated three times throughout the passage –that God is our refuge and our strength. Why do we need God‘s strength? The Psalm describes an unstable world in turmoil...ring any bells? ―The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter.‖ The Psalm, very correctly shows that not only do humans not have control over the planet - though we may delude ourselves into thinking we do – but also that it is folly to put too much faith in other humans to bring deep and abiding stability and peace. We are highly vulnerable, as the earthquake in Haiti has illustrated so brutally. Natural disasters of this magnitude cause many to ask the age-old question: ―How can a loving God allow this to happen?‖ For lack of a clear answer, some abandon their faith, such as the Haitian woman who was reported in a news story to have thrown her Bible into a fire burning in Port au Prince. We do live in a world that contains deep uncertainty, present chaos and, inevitably, more chaos to come. But if we look to God as our refuge and strength, we can believe that his power and love will never leave us and will work through us and others – in ways that will heal, bring peace and restore faith in a life-changing love. We will be tested – but God will give us the strength to carry on. Help us to remember that no matter how much we are tested and shaken, shocked and frightened, God’s love is with us and will give us the strength to carry on. Sunday March 21 Amos 9:13-15 By: Lyle Jones In spring my heart seems to flow back to the fragrant earth. Melting snow joins mountain streams, bringing life to the land. Then new wine flows freely over the hills, enlivening my soul. As I smell life emerging, the Spirit flows into me, and my heart becomes the Promised Land. My empty rituals take bud and blossom into deeply connected praise. She encamps round about this land that She nourishes within me, and my home, in which I am rooted, I carry with me. I am always safe and connected. Spring brings planting, but when the plowman and the reaper exist together as in the land of Eden, toil is no more. My heart is quenched by Spirit, yet I remain an exile from the Garden. I toil. In my opulence and arrogance I have broken the first Covenant. I have abandoned my first sacred role, like a parent who listens, without responding, to the dying gasps of his infant, heart unmoved, certain of his right to turn away. Around me, animals, once my beloved allies, suffer agonies, but I am deaf to them. Too deaf to hear the voice within me, I require an Amos to speak from without: "Though you are at the height of prosperity, and though you live on the land, you are in exile from it, living parallel and alienated. Can you not feel the pain? But a time will come when you will be restored to the harmony and unity of Eden. Your first responsibility, to guard, nurture, and cherish Paradise will be restored to you. In new found peace, you will finally see how much you have suffered in your exile. Your place, your role, and the land, are one. Accept them. The burden is light." Prophet, today I lack the courage to give my riches to the oppressed and take from the land only what I need. I am calloused and insensitive to the vibrations of other life and in my vanity I still appear superior to myself. So I acknowledge my exile and my slavery. I welcome the freely offered gift of new wine, which improves me each moment, and nourishes the land within me to sprout courage. I celebrate your promise that one day my harvest will be such that I can restore myself to the Covenant, and be rooted both in my heart, and in Eden, once more. Great Spirit; Restore me to my sacred role of guardian and priest within your creation, driven by the first desire you placed in my heart, to celebrate, love and nurture all my relations. Open my eyes enough to see that my addictions, which seem impossible to part with, are truly no price at all to pay for the joy of embracing compassion for all. Restore life to my empty rituals, making my praise a living river, carrying your gift of new wine to the Promised Land within me. May your Spirit within, and your saints and prophets without, continue to encourage me toward our first Covenant and to Eden. In the name of Jesus Christ. - Amen. Monday, March 22 James 5:7-10 Rev. Kathryn Ransdell ―Precious crops.‖ If Tim and I had not given the challenge to this year‘s devotional writers to see if the theme of ―Earth‖ could be found amidst the Lenten themes of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity, then I would have probably have missed this phrase from James 5:7. Most often we read this passage and focus on his admonition to be patient and to strengthen our hearts as we wait for Christ. Patience is a lesson I‘m always learning and certainly it is a theme of Lent. What about this phrase, though, ―precious crops.‖ Until the day comes that science can manufacture pills to replace our need for food (and I sincerely hope that day never does come), then food will always be needed by us and therefore valuable. I often forget that crops are precious. Being so disconnected from the farms that produce the food that I eat, I forget the miracle that is involved in a seed taking root and a shoot coming from the earth. It truly is a miracle that I have bread to eat, cheese to savour and vegetables to sustain us. Our culture may be losing the practice of saying formal grace before a meal, but that doesn‘t mean we are not still called to sit before our plate of food and give thanks—thanks to God for grace manifest in our lives and thanks to this earth for the food that it has brought forth. Take time today looking at the food on your plate. This is precious food. And we are God‘s precious children. Thanks be to God. TABLE GRACE: ―Be present at our table Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. His mercies bless and grant that we. May feast in fellowship with thee. Amen!‖ (John Wesley) Tuesday, March 23 Psalm 121 Michael Dobbin I grew up in Calgary and I was in and amidst the Rocky Mountains as often as time and circumstances allowed. I love those mountains and feel they are a part of my essence in the same way as people who grew up on the coast feel about their relationship to oceans. It is a joy to go there with my friends and family. We go to the highest places, the most majestic vistas, the most spirit-laden locales (and there are many) and thrill to the vibration of those places. God is there in a very tangible manner. The year I was born, the toe of the Athabasca Glacier was within a few metres of the roadway. Now, the toe of that same glacier is more than a kilometre from the same road and it has receded most of that distance in the last 20 years. The famous glacier at the back of Lake Louise is actually gone completely. The Bow Glacier, the source of water that runs through Banff, Calgary, Medicine Hat and all the way to the Mississippi, is hugely diminished. PSALM 121 is called an assurance of God‘s protection. I am reminded when I see these glaciers melting before my eyes that it is I who must look to God within myself to remove some of the obstacles to making my own life more ecologically sustainable. It is I who must discover small ways to protect the environment that I love, the very essence of life on this planet as represented in the water derived from these glaciers. Global warming is not somebody else‘s problem. It is mine to address and I must do more to accomplish radical change. The Psalm suggests that ―my certain aid will come from God‖. How do I allow that? How do I embrace that? How do I effect that? Lord God. It is time for truthful clearing away the detritus in my life and making change in my daily routines. I pray for wisdom and strength—Lord who is always awake and aware—to learn how to do with fewer trappings, to live more simply, to conserve more aggressively and consume less stuff. Amen Wednesday, March 24 Psalm 65:5-13 By: Mary Bragg Time and time again at Lent I watch the barrenness of winter transform to hope-filled signs of spring: delicate green specks appearing on tree branches, the cherry blossoms, and fragile shoots coming up through dark earth and even through heavy snow. This outward picture seems to mirror what can happen in our hearts as we mindfully make our way toward Easter. Perhaps, in this psalm, we are given a glimpse of Easter, of spring in full bloom! Rich imagery is expressed by the psalmist…‖God…the hope of all the ends of the earth…(you) who still the roaring…and the turmoil…you call forth songs of joy…you enrich it (the earth) abundantly…soften it with showers…overflow with abundance‖. Lent is a time we can intentionally open our hearts to the creative work of the Spirit as we sit in stillness (much like creation in winter), or as we become aware of roaring and the turmoil in our own lives and in our world. As we reflect and take action inspired by the Spirit at work in our lives, our communities and in our world, let us hold deep in our heart the hope of resurrection, of new life, of a renewed earth. ―You do not have to be good, You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves…. …..Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, The world offers itself to your imagination Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting Over and over announcing your place in the family of things.‖ Mary Oliver Thursday, March 25 Psalm 51:10 Excerpt from: The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri J. M. Nouwen (New York: Image Books, 1992). For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair. Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not ―How am I to find God?‖ but ―How am I to let myself be found by him?‖ The question is not ―How am I to know God?‖ but ―How am I to let myself be known by God?‖ And, finally, the question is not ―How am I to love God?‖ but ―How am I to let myself be loved by God?‖ God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home. From The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri J. M. Nouwen (New York: Image Books, 1992). Friday, March 26 Luke 19: 1- 10 By: Doug Harvey Carl Jung called it ‗serendipity‘, a ‗meaningful coincidence’. I didn‘t choose this passage. It seems that it chose me by a meaningful coincidence. The relationship between money and ‗goodness,‘ between being rich and being ‗liked‘ is one I have struggled with for decades. I have worked with entrepreneurs for my entire career. Every one of them was rich or wanted to be rich. I have watched the best of them struggle with the same dilemma of ‗good versus money‘. It wasn‘t that I didn‘t like the entrepreneurs with whom I worked or that I thought they were bad in some way. In fact, I liked most of them very much. Most were caring people with active social consciences. For whatever reason I didn‘t like myself and my desire to be wealthy like them even if I didn‘t like the work I had to do to share in their wealth. Then a funny thing happened as my faith journey evolved and deepened. I began to like and even love myself because I was told countless times that God loved me. And as I came to like and love myself I came to like and love the business roles that I played in helping my entrepreneur clients to become successful and, therefore, wealthy. I came to a deeper and deeper understanding that God made everyone for a purpose including business owners who, on the surface, seemed totally dedicated to making themselves wealthy. In my role as a CFO I even came to understand tax collectors more clearly. I saw the passion and enthusiasm and, frankly, the talent that entrepreneurs brought to their businesses as their own connections to the source, to the Holy Spirit, to God. Without entrepreneurs who often take frightening risks in turning their business visions into reality we would not have jobs to take of our families, to provide surplus wealth to take care of our poor, to pay taxes to make our schools and hospitals work. And without tax collectors the entrepreneurs might not pay the taxes needed to do all those good things! Yes, entrepreneurs and tax collectors are constantly faced with the temptation to fall in love with money or to abuse their power. But I think that is true of all of us. I believe that all of us ‗love money‘ in some way at some point in our lives. I also have come to believe that Jesus is saying to all of us that it is not the money in the bank account that matters it is the intent we have in our hearts as we both make and use that money for the right purposes. Saturday, March 27 Ezekiel 37: 1-14 By: Mae and John Pratt-Johnson Death and Resurrection together form a universal principle. It is God's way of bringing redemption to the earth and to human life. Years ago in a time of suffering, when I realized this, it opened me up to possibilities God might offer and gave me hope. We don't know where death and suffering come from (never from God) but Resurrection we know is from God . Our prophet is taken on such a journey. God says I hold you by the hand as you look at this destruction full on. It must have taken courage to stay there long enough to view and comprehend this terrible desolation. Then he chose faith over despair, he heard the Word of the Lord, and spoke out. The result was the amazing, triumphant resurrection of bodies with their spirits that became a rebuilt and revitalized nation that acknowledged God. Surely this is a story to hold in our hearts of God's great loving redemptive power. Sometimes in the face of suffering, tragedy, illness, the only way to find hope is to search through the ruins for a sliver of resurrection light. That will be God. Jesus spoke of it this way: "unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit" John 12:24. For him, death and resurrection was the only way to redeem the world, to bear the fruit of which we are a part. At this time in Lent, we still have to face the suffering of Good Friday - all the worst that humans, world powers, and misguided religion can do. Let us look at it full on, acknowledge, grieve, and hope. We will see what God will do. God of loving care, take me to the place and experience in my life where I can hear your voice and find resurrection. Palm Sunday, March 28 Luke 19:28-40 By: Tim Scorer From the east, Jesus rides a donkey down the Mount of Olives, the final stage of the hundred mile journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. From the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor rides a war horse at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and foot soldiers. Clearly both of them have prepared for this moment of entry into the city. Jesus' plan unfolds as he sends disciples ahead to bring the colt. There's even a code word: ―The Lord needs it.‖ Pilate's intention is clear. Passover is a major Jewish festival when there is a risk of things getting out of hand with the occupied population. He will bring reinforcements from the coast – a display of imperial power to keep things under control. Get the picture? West gate: cavalry, leather armour, helmets, Roman eagles on poles, metal and gold, drums, military precision, imposed power, and foot soldiers who know well their capacity to brutalize a subject people. Those who notice the procession are sullen and silent. Everyone knows that this is all about occupation. East gate: simple man on a work animal – never been ridden before, cloaks for a saddle. Everything has been anticipated. As soon as the procession sets out, the followers of this peasant teacher begin to yell out to alert the crowd that this is the moment. How can they respond? ―Let's rip down some branches from these trees and lay them on the way as a path of welcome for the leader who comes in the name of peace!‖ ―No, let the trees be. They raise their arms in praise too! If this really matters to us we will lay before this king, our most prized possessions – our comfort and our identity.‖ And as Jesus rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. With your green and giving creation we will raise our hands in praise to you! With the stones and soil of Earth \we will shape a path of loving with you! You are our Gate. You are our Way. Amen. Monday, March 29 John 12: 1-12 By: Jean Budden What resonates for me in this scripture is Mary washing Jesus‘ feet. In Jesus‘ day it was customary when someone had travelled far, to have their feet washed. After His travels a dinner was laid out for Jesus. They came to the table, Lazarus, Martha, Mary and the disciples. Jesus is among friends who express their love. This is the calm before the storm. Mary washes the feet of Jesus not with water but with an expensive perfume…‖and the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume‖. Mary offers a wonderful demonstration of gratitude, love and devotion. Jesus speaks of Mary‘s actions as anticipatory of his death and burial. With this scripture passage I am instantly reminded of the people washing the feet of travellers visiting First United Church. Their feet may ache and a person will provide a warm bowl of water. The feet are held, massaged and soothed so they may continue their travels. Afterwards they can go to the table and break bread, be with those who express their love, and if they wish, can rest their weary body on a bed. I find this action of washing feet to be so powerful. It brings people together and the act can be done in silence, in prayer. It is an act of humility, of being teachable. I am a traveller (I am visiting this earth briefly) and this period of Lent gives me time to slow down, to reflect, and undergo a ―spiritual spring cleaning‖. I am filled with gratitude when I experience the depth of unconditional love offered by Jesus and in the act of washing feet. The power of the image of washing feet compels me to go deeper in my faith. Almighty Creator, as I enter this holiest of weeks ―make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; and where there is doubt, faith‖. Tuesday, March 30 Isaiah 49:1-7 By: Christine Coles When we are called to come back and follow God how do we find the way? The prophets call us, the scriptures speak to us, and Jesus has gone before us. Our church community and the wider church have wisdom to share. And we listen to our own common sense, and we listen to God within us. For prayer, I invite you to go outside and find a friendly patch of dirt. If that isn't possible, imagine it. Find a space to take off your shoes and stand barefoot and feel the grass, the mud, the twigs and all the creepy crawlies between your toes. Breathe deep and feel your breath reaching through your body, connecting to your heartbeat, each pulse bringing life to each part of your physical body, each pulse taking away what is not needed, sharing it back to the rest of the world. As you exhale, release on your breath what you no longer need. Feel connected to the earth, the life flowing from your feet up your body, rich and loamy and full of good things to help you grow, pulling up through your spine and out the top of your head. Feel connected to the sky, open your mind to the bright and refreshing light pouring through you like bright clean waters, all the way to the earth, connecting you up and down. Feel inside your body, know that we belong to God who has created and is creating, who came in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit. Breathe deep and listen and feel. Hold your feet and the dirt on them. Feel your connection to God and the earth and yourself and know you are one. Know that you have a path to follow and hold that in your heart, giving thanks to God for the moment. Wednesday, March 31 Hebrews 12:1-3 By: Freeda Elliott We are asked to follow the example of Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He has endured the humiliation of the cross disregarding the shame and has taken his rightful seat at the right hand of the throne of God. He endured such hostility against himself from sinners so that we may not grow weary or lose heart. As we pray the Lord‘s Prayer we ask God to forgive our sins and those who sin against us and ask those who we have hurt to be forgiven of our transgressions. If we do not forgive those who have sinned, the Lord will not forgive us. It is a constant battle for us to achieve this (kind) of peace on earth. Sometimes we ask ourselves why the Lord lets such terrible things happen in the world like the recent earthquake in Haiti. We question why God would let such terrible things to happen but it is a great mystery beyond our comprehension. It can lead you to wonder why God let such terrible things happen to Jesus on the cross. What I believe is that this happened so that our own sins can be forgiven. If Jesus died that terrible death it is not beyond us to forgive others. Now is the time to show our compassion to the rest of the world. Your hearts answered the call to the terrible events that happened in Haiti with a wonderful donation for the human tragedy that has happened there. This Lenten period is a time of reflection for the events of our lives and for the preservation of the earth. I am reminded of a trip that I took to Alaska and the leaving of Tok Junction to climb on the Taylor Highway. In that climb over the top of the mountain, I felt the closeness to the majesty of our universe and the closeness go God. It felt like I could reach out and touch the very heavens. I was brought down to earth by descending to the bottom edge of the mighty Yukon River and a scary barge ride to Dawson City. We pray for the preservation of God‘s beautiful universe and majestic mountains. Dear God, Help us to forgive others who have sinned against us. Make it not beyond our power to forgive so that we may be able to enter the Kingdom of God and hallow the name of Our Father for ever. Amen. Maundy Thursday, April 1 John 13:1-35 Rev. Kathryn Ransdell I like Peter. He‘s the disciple who so wants to ―get it‖ when it comes to this Jesus- thing. He‘s so willing to wear his heart on his sleeve and follow Jesus. He will be the one in a short time so willing to betray Jesus. When he understands that Jesus‘ washing his feet wasn‘t just about a customary act of hospitality, he excitedly asks Jesus to wash not just his feet, but his hands and his head. Don‘t just give me a little if this is as good as you say it is! Today‘s reading gives us an intimate view of what it was like when the disciples gathered with Jesus for what would be one of the last times they would gather under peaceful circumstances. From a Christian education standpoint, I‘m intrigued that they didn‘t get together with an agenda, flipchart, and markers in hopes of being ―educated in their faith.‖ They were simply together, in community, present with one another. At the same time that Peter wants to have more water put on him, Judas moves farther away from his rabbi, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and by the end of the passage, physically. Immediately Judas went out. ―And it was night.‖ These two characters together represent the deepest desire of my faith - to wear my heart on my sleeve and follow Jesus, and the deepest fear of my faith - that darkness would descend upon me. It is the three days that are coming, the Paschal Triduum, where I will journey once again, to realize my sinfulness and to hear the good news: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. Thanks be to God. As we gather once again to wash feet and eat at the table, may our hearts cry out to have more than our feet washed, but also our hearts and souls. Let us have love for one another. AMEN. Good Friday, April 2 John 19: 13-36 By: Debra Osmar Traditionally Good Friday is one of the most difficult days to get through in our spiritual year. Always the day has saddened me. Even as a young girl I could never name the cause until I learned of the significance of the day in Sunday school. And then it saddened me more, even to this time. How could people of God crucify Jesus? How could people ignore the lessons that have always been there for us to follow from God, source of all that is? How could the priests and crowds be so angry? As I read these scriptures I remember my tears while viewing The Passion of Christ, the must-see movie of a few years ago. Looking for ways to see deeper meaning with lessons was a challenge. As he was dying on the cross, Jesus continued to love and care for his family, telling John to care for his mother Mary, telling her that John is her son. One of the most precious gifts we have is family, which we are reminded of with this gift from Jesus to both his beloved disciple and his mother. He knew that family would care for a mother and son as no other can, a lesson that today many of us ignore. He was a king, this denied by the Jewish leaders, the irony being that Pontius Pilate had a sign written that identified Jesus as King of the Jews. In death he would be greater than all, at the right hand of God. Even as he suffered, Jesus kept the purpose of the ancient prophesies as a lesson. He was the lamb of sacrifice for atonement of all of our sins. Reading the scriptures, the enlightenment was to see that he chose when he would die, that indeed he was the ultimate and final sacrifice. I am grateful to be reminded of my mother‘s words that ―the blood of Jesus runs in me‖. As Christians we are called to remember his teachings especially to love one another. I would add to love this Earth, this rich bountiful gift that is life from God. The richness of the soil into which seeds are planted from which we harvest crops; the streams that provide us with water and further sustenance. Jesus, I‘m sure would remind us all that we have the responsibility to care how we treat this Earth. The mountains, forests, prairies, oceans and deserts all give us life and show us the beauty of God‘s creations. What a wonderful world if we all did follow his teachings in all things. Holy One, as we move through this Lenten time please be with us all. Help our heavy hearts to be filled with the light of Your love. Help us to follow in the steps of Your Son, our Saviour, to follow the lessons he gave us. Guide us in serving those around us who need a helping hand and lead us to treasure the bounty of this beautiful gift of Earth. Please be with us as we humbly work to be true and good stewards of Your gifts. Thank you Gracious One for giving us the gift of Jesus and for his blood that runs through us all. AMEN Holy Saturday, April 3, 2010 Lamentations 3: 1-24 By: Linda Elaine Turner Martha‘s heart is cold and heavy. She feels forsaken as if the rod of God‘s wrath has stolen her beloved. She blames God‘s wrath for walling her in without escape. Her beloved‘s body is unresponsive and cold to her touch. The Spirit has left him. Martha laments and recalls how she, appropriating the living Earth‘s voice, raised her voice against injustice saying: ―Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.‖ Martha remembers his love-filled words of assurance: ―Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.‖ Then she remembers that day when the Holy Spirit‘s fragrance—permeated his clothes, his flesh, his hair, and anointed him, whom she Martha loved and trusted—this fills her nostrils. Bitterness has crept into Martha‘s heart. The Cana joy has left Martha and her faith community. The wine has turned to vinegar. Martha feels the hammer that drove a wooden stake into the heart of the Earth as if it were her own heart—still. She hears her bridegroom say: ―It‘s over,‖ and sees his body stiffen and grow cold without the Holy Spirit. Martha laments: ―the thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! Martha wipes the tears from her eyes. As the truth dawns, and she realizes the cold cruelty of the grave, hope returns to her. She too has sinned. She prays quietly for forgiveness. The tomb empties. Martha‘s prayer: Our gracious living Mother and Father. We your children have sinned. Forgive us. Grant us the freedom to demonstrate the physical resurrection of the Word, hand in hand with the Holy Spirit, giving all spirits of the Earth cause to unite and lift up one voice in peace and celebration. Amen. Easter Sunday, April John 20:1-18 By: Rev. Gary Paterson So… it‘s Easter morning; and we‘re in a garden; memories of Eden, but filled with tears. Mary loved Jesus, but now he‘s dead. The only thing she hoped to do as a final gesture of tender care was to anoint his body, and now even that consolation was not possible – the body was gone. The other disciples were running this way and that, and then they left; but Mary remained. Maybe that‘s the beginning of an Easter word… standing still; in the garden; with your tears. Because that‘s when something happened for Mary… standing still brings an opening for angels, who speak words of reassurance. But it‘s strange, isn‘t it, how the consoling words of others, even of angels, aren‘t enough. They‘re necessary; they set the stage; they hold you in your grief, so that you don‘t fall apart; what they do, is give you time for something else to happen, time for the Spirit to work a deeper healing within. Mary sees someone, whom she believes is the gardener. We‘re told it‘s Jesus, but she doesn‘t know this; she doesn‘t recognize him. Which has always astounded me – not recognize the one with whom she has travelled so intimately for three years, the man who had freed her from her demons, who had brought the gift of life and love? Or is this too an Easter word… you aren‘t necessarily going to recognize the resurrected Christ when he comes to you; the experience might be as ordinary and everyday as bumping into the gardener. Until you hear your name; until you feel yourself being addressed so deeply and intimately by the Spirit, by Love; by the Energy of Resurrection. And maybe you will remember ancient prophetic words, ―I, the Lord, have called you by name, and you are mine.‖ (Is. 43). And maybe, just maybe, you will find yourself answering, ―Oh God, indeed, you have called me by name, and I am yours. And that‘s enough.‖ O mysterious yet loving God, come to me. Or rather, let me see you and know you and name you. Easter me, God; let me know my name, so that I might be made whole, and discover true life. Amen.